tv Overheard With Evan Smith PBS August 31, 2011 5:00am-5:30am PDT
>> funding for overheard is provided in part by hillco partners. texas government affairs consultants and its global health care consulting business unit, hill cohealth and by the matson mckale foundation in support of public television and also by mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community, and also by the alice collie burg
foundation. >> he is an awe there are, radio host, a banker and with a resume like that we will ask him to fix everything in the country within 30 minute. he is bill bradley. this is overheard. >> because you are a judge or justice in your case, doesn't mean that you are free of personal opinions about things. >> you have a dimmer view of him than you have of the president -- when they take your name in vain -- >> there is a larger issue in your mind. it is not about whether there ought to be a death penalty but whether the death penalty as administered is fair.
be back with you and be in that small number of people who, um, have been on the show three times. i've always wanted to be in the same class as kinky friedman. smith: well i'm looking, i'm looking ahead to the fourth already. so let's, let's see how this one goes. so you, you've been out of public life, uh, elective office for more than a decade now. aren't you glad when you look at the way the world is today and the state of our politics that you're not in public life? bradley:well politics has always been a rough game. i don't think it's much rougher now than it's ever been. smith: you don't? bradley:it just has a different form. smith: it seems awful. bradley:it's exacerbated by the money, by the media that, uh, trivializes things on the one hand and on the other hand rewards combat as opposed to thought or compromise. smith: right. bradley:um, but, um, you know, i'm, i'm happy doing what i'm doing. i had a great 18 years in the united states senate. i'm glad i tried for the big one in 2000, regret i didn't make it. um, and life moves on. smith: as we sit here, it was indeed 10 years ago that you ran for president. bradley:laughs] smith: we talk about bush versus gore all the time but we forget about gore versus bradley. bradley:right, that's true. smith: but that indeed, it did happen. is that something you look back on as a fun, fondly, with good memories? bradley:oh yeah. no, no question about that. i mean
when you run for president of the united states it's a tremendous experience, particularly if there comes a time in a campaign where you start to do well. smith: yeah. bradley:and people then project on you all their hopes and their fears. smith: yeah. bradley:you know i love connecting the eyes of the people in the audience when i would speak about things. and i could see that sometimes they were being touched. sometimes they were angry. the whole experience is a wonderful one because the country is a remarkably diverse place and the kind of things you see and encounter in the country smith: it's remarkable to hear you talk about this in such an upbeat and positive way when you contrast that with everything we read in the papers or hear on television about the way, uh, politics and policy both are being practiced today. um, could you survive, would you be happy, function as sort of the not terribly partisan serious and, and upbeat person you are? could you function in washington today? bradley:uh, you know, uh, i
don't know. uh, i'm not in washington today. smith: right. bradley:i know that, uh, when i was there, there was a lot of working across the aisle. i remember in 1986 for example when it was the last great immigration bill and alan simpson was the member of the senate who was in charge of that. smith: senator from wyoming. bradley:senator from wyoming and the judiciary committee. and i remember i had about 18 questions about the bill. i went to his office just, uh, he and i and we sat and talked. he answered 18 questions at the end of which i said, okay, you got my support. i didn't even know the democratic position. smith: you just you yourself. bradley:i think that that's unlikely to happen today because the parties have become rigidified. partially a function of money, partially a function of ideology, partially a function of how people rewarded. smith: right. bradley: .at the polls. i mean people are rewarded now for protecting themselves against the challenge in the primary from their, uh, right or their left. smith: so they run to the end. bradley:they run to the end.
smith: yeah. bradley:as opposed to coming to the center and dealing with the things that most americans, uh, care about. i mean i think most americans want the same thing. they want a good job. they want to have a great education for their kids. smith: yep. bradley:chance for them to go to college if they're bright. they want to have healthcare for their family. if they work a lifetime they want a pension that will help sustain them when they're retired. and those are the real issues, uh, affecting peoples' lives. and often when you play the extremes, uh, the casualty are dealing with those issues. smith: right. but, but the problem is that they work for us. the people we send to washington who exist on these two poles work for us. if enough of us say we don't want you doing that we want you in the middle, shouldn't they then theoretically come back to the center with us? bradley:no question about that. smith: yeah. bradley:and, uh. smith: . so why don't we say that to them? or why don't they listen? bradley:well i think that, uh, a lot of peoples' voices are not heard. uh, but there's a new, a new age. the internet gives a great opportunity.
smith: right. bradley:.. to build a movement. look at obama in 2008. you know he was the first one really to tap that potential. smith: yes but look at obama in 2010. i mean a lot of the same people who you're referring to who got so excited about what they saw in '08 have been left holding the bag. bradley:well politics is fickle sometimes. smith: it is. bradley:yeah, and uh. ú&ith: and politicians are fickle. bradley:.people have a short, uh, attention span and a short expectation span. they want results immediately. smith: right. bradley:.and that's just not politics. smith: well you have, you have a long. bradley:i don't think that's life. i mean. smith: right. bradley:.. you're not going to, uh, solve all your problems immediately. you're going to have some hits, you're going to grow, you're going to learn things, you're going to fall in love, you're going to stri.find, uh, the future. sometimes there's pain and sometimes there's great opportunity and that, that's the same thing. smith: . you, you have a long attention span. so let me ask you to, to blow past the people in the world who are ready to give up on hope and everything else right now. you, you assess the situation currently as you see it. so do you believe the president is doing a, a good job in office?
bradley: uh, i think the president has accomplished a lot. i think, uh, the first stimulus really pulled us back from the brink of a, a real depression. i think, uh, the healthcare bill, you know, was something that no ever. um, i think that'sd significant. i think embodied in the first stimulus bill was the largest education bill since federal education began. the largest infrastructure bill since, uh, the highway program in 1954. and the largest renewable energy bill ever in history. those stories aren't told. smith: why? bradley:because unemployment's at 9.8%. if we get unemployment down to 7% then you can hear the sub-stories in the overall stimulus package, which you know it may not have been enough. um, but i think that he's got real things that he can point to. smith: yeah. bradley:uh, you know, he's not, uh, i mean he made, made mistakes. everybody makes mistakes. smith: what mistakes did he make? bradley:well i think, uh, there were two. one is when
he came to office. i think that, uh, he came because people bought into his story. he had the same story throughout his campaign, which was elect me and i'll change the way things washington. and then we can do great things again as americans. smith: right. bradley:. and, uh, well if you do that you got to deal with money. and i think if in his first weeks there he'd put a public financing bill before the congress where taxpayers finance the elections of congressmen and senators and cut out all the special interests that, you know, during the bush years proliferated in terms of lobbyists from 17,000 to 34,000 in, in washington. and probably higher today. uh, i think that would have sent a message consistent with his campaign that, you know, things are different in washington now. and i think he would have gotten it because he was at 70 and 80% approval. smith: so you think congress would have actually bought.? bradley:i think he would have peeled off a couple of republicans. smith: yeah. bradley:then i think his second mistake is when he got the first stimulus bill larded with earmarks. that he on a friday afternoon,
after the market closed should have vetoed in told the congress, i ran a campaign saying i didn't want earmarks. there are 150 in this bill here. here they are. i want these stripped and returned to my desk by monday morning before the market opens. and if you don't you're responsible with what happens in the market. smith: yeah. bradley:people would have said whoa, you know, he's serious about being different. so i think those are two missed opportunities. smith: are, are the reasons for the mistakes that you cite, which seem very reasonable to me sitting here, are they him or are they it? are they him in the sense that he was not tough enough or visionary enough at the time to do that? or is the problem that washington is resistant to that kind of change? i remember george bush saying we're going to change washington. i remember bill clinton talking about the third way. bradley:yeah, yeah. smith: neither of them was able to accomplish, in fact, arguably the country was more partisan, more divided. bradley:yeah. smith: .. after clinton and bush. and we seem to be heading in the same direction now. bradley:well when, you know, changing washington is a slogan and it's, you know, as you said time tested. smith: right.
bradley:.road tested and it, it works on one level. smith: yeah. bradley:but then when you actually get to the, to the things that you have to do to change washington they're related to process. campaign finance reform, redistricting, yada, yada. smith: yeah. bradley:and, um, you have your pollster and the pollster says well what's on peoples' minds is their job or what's on people's minds is healthcare. smith: right. bradley:so do you spend your political capital to do the process changes or do you focus on what your pollster says or the things people care about, in many cases. smith: yeah. bradley.that they do. and often what happens is you end up, uh, following the tactical battle of everyday fighting for the news cycle as opposed to the overall strategic view, which would smith: you know a lot of the people who were defeated this last cycle were people who set up ideologically kind of like you. pragmatic, more to the
center, people who were there for a while who had experience on issues and wanted to do the business of the people. and what we now have elected to congress and to a lot of the state legislatures around the country are people who are simply angry. bradley:yeah. smith: and who have no sense of what the actual requirements are to be in government. they just want to break everything down. bradley:yeah. well there comes a time where people get fed up with, uh, slogans and fed up with ideology. smith: yeah. bradley:and it's true. there's been a shift and a lot of people now in government that don't want any government. uh, there are a lot of people who i think, uh, don't understand, uh, government and what it means for people. uh, but you know at some point that's going to fail, too. i mean there's a reality out there in america today and that's the economic circumstance of the vast majority of americans. and, uh, both parties have been in over the last 40 years. smith: yeah. bradley:and neither one of them has successfully dealt with this issue embodied in the following statistic: between 1973 and 2009, for 90% of the american people,
uh, their income went up nominally 10%. so that means they were making less in real terms in 2009 than they were in 1973. the answer is they, most americans save through their homes. and homes were appreciating. and then the bubble. smith: yeah. bradley:and their homes appreciated more and more. they started borrowing off their homes and spending that money as if they'd gotten a raise at the office. and now 2007 comes, home equity loans are over. smith: right, the bubble pops. bradley:the bubble pops. the value drops. so here they are, they're stuck. they've had no raise for 30-40 years appreciably and they now can't borrow up their homes. and they are upset and they're saying who is on our side? smith: right. bradley:and they sometimes are angry. so the days they're angry they vote for the angriest person or party. and sometimes they're hopeful and they then see somebody who says something that means something to them. but this is a substantive problem. smith: yeah. are the
corporate interests who did not increase appreciably incomes over that period of time the ones responsible? bradley:no, i think there's these larger forces at work. smith: yeah. bradley: technological change, the global economy. uh, i think that. smith: things we can't control. bradley:yeah, things you can't control. smith: right. bradley:i mean you can, you, so you have to figure out a new way that you can talk to people about having their incomes and their standard of living rise. you know, we know, we know basically the outlines of the long-term things. i mean education is the key. research and development is the key. innovation is the key. because the reality is, you know, you're going to make tires less expensive in china than you are in the united states. people who used to work in the tire business manufacturing tires now have to do something else. chances are, uh, we hope that they'll be able to have sufficient education so they can move into the new, new thing. the new industry that's created by the geniuses out of our education system who imagine
a world that we now can't see. smith: but of course you cited earlier all the things that the president in your view had accomplished over the first two years. and they are many of the things you just named. you know renewable energy, education, uh, more people with health insurance. bradley:yeah. smith: and yet he gets no credit at all for those things. bradley:but see, yeah, and you're falling into the same problem, which is what about today? smith: yeah. bradley:i need a change immediately. smith: right. things take time. bradley:.you have education for example, so it takes a little time. and that's why, if you're going to do anything in american politics, it's very difficult to do and i'm sure at a very pregnant moment, it's very difficult to do in less than eight years. well let me, before we get into a little bit more substantive stuff, let me ask one more political question. so the president bradley:as opposed to the trivia we've been talking about? smith: all trivia stuff, yes. [audience laughter] well wait, wait until you see what i ask you next. bradley: definitely. smith: um, the president is going to have to run for reelection any day now. i mean you know these election cyclee are
a.just really long. you were someone who challenged, not the incumbent but there's now talk openly about the possibility of a challenge to the president. would you as a good democrat and as somebody who observes this process support that in any way? would you see any bradley: absolutely not. smith: yeah. bradley:i think it's ludicrous to talk about that now. if you look comparatively, obama's numbers are better than ronald reagan's in 1982. you didn't hear anybody in 1982 say well we're going to challenge the president. bradley:you know the amazing thing is a lot of these pundits on tv and not you. smith:no, of course not. bradley:others that make more money than you. smith: or money actually, yeah. bradley:you know they'll say this is what the situation is today, right. and this is what we should do. okay. then they're absolutely wrong, right? absolutely wrong. two weeks later, we think you should do that, the opposite thing. smith: exactly. bradley:nobody holds them accountable because they're just show business, they're entertaining. smith: right.
bradley:and then you find some of these people who say when they're pressed for their venom or their, uh, anger or whatever they just say well we're just entertainers. smith: you're not speaking of anybody in particular. bradley:i'm thinking of a few people. smith: i bet you probably are. [audience laughter] i want to ask you about something i thought was very interesting. i seem to stop reading esquire magazine at exactly the wrong moment. bradley:laughs] smith: and i stopped reading esquire magazine about six months ago. and then come to find that you participated in a project that esquire hatched this fall. it was you and three former senators, john danforth from missouri, republican. bob packwood from oregon, republican. gary hart from colorado, democrat. and what you all did was basically say we're going to try to liberate it from the consequences of having to ever seek elective office again. balance the federal budget and we're going to pro-pronounce all these things as things we ought to do but, you know, clearly politically some of them are going to be hard. but since we have no reason to seek office again we can just say what's on our minds. i want to ask you about a couple of those because they were really fascinating. one was what was traditionally thought to be a third rail of politics, raise the retirement age to 70. bradley:yeah. smith: you're, you're, you're for this. bradley:let me give you some context. smith: yeah. bradley:so we were asked to sit in a room for three or four days as if we were senators, we were once. smith: right.
bradley:and try to figure out what could we agree on to balance the budget by 2020. reduce the federal debt to 60% of gdp. smith: right. two democrats, two republicans. bradley:two democrats, two republicans. smith: right. bradley:so the process itself was, was fun. smith: yeah. bradley:i was there for a day and a half and i was like, hey, i really liked doing this when i was in the senate. smith: i remember this. bradley:i remember this. smith: yeah. bradley:and, uh, so we, we said, okay, what, what do we need to do? if you're going to balance the budget by 2020 you've got to deal with the big issues. and the big issues are social security, medicare, defense and taxes. smith: right. bradley:you're not going to get where you need to get in 2012, balancing the budget by, uh, reducing the parks by 1%. smith: \right. bradley:and so we decided we'd tackle the big issues. and on, uh, social security, uh, we gradually raised the retirement age to 70 in
2056. um, and then for those workers who have manual labor jobs we established a special disability fund they could, uh, use and they could have access to between 67 and 70. we changed the way the cost of living, uh, uh, index was established, um, which reflected more reality. uh, so we did those two things. on, uh, on defense we cut defense about $140 billion. smith: right bradley:.by devising a defense budget to fit the threats of today, not the threats of yesterday. smith: none of the legacy stuff that we all protect, yeah. bradley:we're not in the cold war anymore. we're not trying to build a military in order to stop the russians from coming across the north german plain. we're dealing with the al qaeda of the world and the regional threats. and we're dealing with defense requirements that are really related to intelligence, mobility, control of the
smith: um, and, and reduce farm subsidies, or reform farm subsidy for something on there? bradley:yeah, reform some of these. i mean just really a shocking thing. we said if the farmer makes more than $500,000 a year. smith: maybe he doesn't need anything from the government. bradley:.doesn't need any, yeah, uh, subsidies. and then they'll end taxes. smith: well also before you get to taxes you also said get rid of all earmarks. bradley:well yeah. smith: right? bradley:get rid of all.but you don't save much money. that was kind of symbolic. smith: but that might be the most controversial thing of all. bradley:maybe to people in washington but it won't be controversial to the people in the states. smith: we just elected a whole bunch of people who campaigned on no earmarks and then weren't even sworn in yet and we're like well i was kidding about that. bradley:yeah that really builds trust in the people. smith: doesn't it actually, yeah. it's why we're cynical. and then on taxes you talked about among other things i thought was fascinating and really interesting especially right now, raise the gasoline tax by a dollar. bradley:yeah, we did a couple of things. uh, one thing is we trimmed some of the, uh, loopholes.
uh, the big tax item though was we increased the gasoline tax to 10 cents a year over the next ten years until 2020, right? and, um, people say, oh, a dollar gasoline tax. but stay with me on that. at the same time we required the automobile companies to double their mileage, to get the 46 miles a gallon as opposed to 24 miles a gallon. so if you did those two things simultaneously. smith: yeah. bradley:.the average person would be spending no more for their gasoline in 2020 than they're now spending. smith: right. bradley:because they'd have much more fuel efficient cars. so you know the point is the, the media and our politics today allow you to hear one thing. but it makes it very difficult for you to connect two or three things. smith: right. bradley:but life is always a connection of two or three things. it's not one thing. and this is the example of connect the tax with your change in the. smith: yeah. efficiency, you get a good outcome. smith: but most, but most people would say well bill bradley is for highhr taxes. bradley:no it's jack danforth. smith: jack, i'm sorry. [audience laughter] that, that snake packwood is for
higher taxes. he's from oregon. they're communists. bradley:the republicans, the republicans were asking for higher taxes. smith: that's crazy. well i love this story simply because it got me back into the realm of thinking about you and policy. and, and i'm interested to hear you talk as you have before we started taping today about, uh, your life now. because you have sought out opportunities to be of service whether it's in the, uh, merchant bank that you are a partner in in new york where you're out trying to help the next generation of entrepreneurs realize their visions and do good for the world. or if it's on satellite radio where you're talking to real americans. you have managed to remain connected and involved in the public sphere. bradley:well i manage to as i said try to fill those two voids that emerged when i left politics, which is the substantive void, which is reading, writing, speaking. and the people void, which is interviewing people around the country about their lives. for example the program i do, american voices, sirius xm 102 on sunday morning three or four times. smith: pbs just lost its c3 exemption by the way.
bradley:oh, okay, whatever. uh, one of the things i usually interview somebody who's doing, has an unusual job. like a guy that's a groundskeeper at fenway park or lighthouse captain in, in oregon, right. well and then interview somebody that's doing something really positive in the community. smith: yeah. bradley:like, uh, i interviewed a guy who shines shoes at the pittsburgh children's hospital for 46 years. and out of every tip he got he put a portion of that tip into a fund to pay for poor kids' healthcare. and the day i interviewed him he said he put in that fund over the years over $150,000. and that's what, when i ran for president, i referred to as the goodness of the american people. smith: yeah. bradley:and so partly what i want to do on the show is let people hear the kind of stories that i heard on the road in america for 40 years as a politician and a basketball player. and then also let them meet the people who reflect what real
america is. something they have passion for, which is you know one of the things i always do they really know about, uh, about, uh, our common humanity? or how much trouble have they had in their life for.they have a sense of humor? i mean these kinds of things. smith: it's the import.it's the important smith: uh, you were an extraordinary athlete as a youth, college, uh, professional. and, uh, i want to know what in a very practical sense those things taught you about being the person you are now. bradley:well i think they shaped my character in a fundamental way. and by, that character was shaped by the time i was 15 or 16 years old. i mean you know i wrote a book
called values of the game. smith: right. bradley:what are the values you learn that stay with you, in my case, in basketball? well you learn discipline. you got to go out there and develop your skill. smith: yeah. bradley:you learn imagination. you have to imagine things different than they are in order to create something new every moment on the court. resilience, we're all going to be knocked down. you got to get back up. that's what you learn in sports. and i went through 10 or so values like that. courage, responsibility and, um, you know, that's what i got from politics, uh, basketball. in addition to a rich set of, um, friendships. i mean for example about a year and a half ago we had, uh, a reunion of, uh, one of the great knick teams and there were about eight or nine of us sat around. and we told stories about those years. and i was struck by how much. smith: who, who was that? give us just some names. bradley:uh, well there was willis reed, walt frasier, earl monroe, dick barnett, phil jackson, uh, dave
debusschere's kids,,he's passed away, uh, jerry lucas. i mean you know, nobody knows those that are listening if you're under 50. smith: i don't know. bradley:but anyway that, that's. smith: earl, earl, earl the pearl looms large in my memory. bradley:yeah, but that's where we are. and there was so much love in that room. smith: yeah. bradley:and so much, uh, kind of, uh, kind of affection and acceptance of what we shared together at a moment that not one of us could had the experience without all of us. smith: yeah. bradley:those are the things i got out of, uh, out of pol.out of basketball. in addition to the fact that in basketball you got to meet the press every day. smith: right. so you're very good at this. bradley:i got to meet the press. smith: i got it. well, uh. bradley:i used to. i don't have to there now. smith: well i want you to know. bradley:except the ones i want to meet. smith: i assume you want to be here. bradley:of course. bradley:i definitely want to be here because i think you're doing a wonderful thing here with the texas tribune. [audience laughter] smith: look at that. now, now, now the c3 exemption is definitely busted. um, uh,
i'm already thinking of questions for the fourth time you're back. so, uh, senator bradley. bradley:thanks, evan. smith: an honor to see you. happy holidays to you, sir. bradley:you too. smith: thank you very much. adolescen. >> funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in heart by hillco partners, texas government affairs consul tansy and its global health care consulting business unit hill cohealth and by the mat son mckale foundation in support of public television and also by mfi foundation, improving